Do You Have What it Takes?

December, 11, 2014

Government SES Application Reality Check

Reality Check: Are You SES Material?
Barbara Adams

Maybe you are a civil servant who has been highly successful at the GS-14 or GS-15 level for a while, and your SES colleagues are nudging you to go for it. Or maybe you are a corporate executive, poised to make the transition and apply your business acumen to the federal government.

On the other hand, you might be a senior military officer at the O-5 level or above, and you have held multiple command positions. Now you are ready to leave the military, but you’d like to continue to serve by working within the federal government. The SES seems like it could be a good fit, so you decide to start the Federal SES Application process.

Having the drive, ambition, passion, and vision is important, but it may not be enough, unless you can demonstrate in your government SES application materials that you do indeed possess the experience, training, and background to thrive in the SES.

To give you an idea of the level of performance I am referring to, consider these real-world accomplishments people have recently cited in their Government SES application materials:
One seasoned GS-15 serving as Principal Deputy Director of a major Division in Department of the Army led numerous high-visibility initiatives, developing policy, providing expert guidance and oversight, and managing program budgets in excess of $6B. Recognizing shifting priorities and the need to realign them with strategic goals, she convinced senior officials to discontinue one of the highest visibility incubation programs and make major funding shifts. She ultimately gained approval for obligation of more than $48M while streamlining and prioritizing the organization’s efforts.
In another case, a corporate executive and consultant was hired as Director, Global EEO Initiatives for a major Fortune 500 company. In response to growing federal non-compliance issues with $500M in government contracts, he directed a robust gap analysis to better identify any employment liability related to non-compliance with federal regulations. He developed a strategic compliance vision and plan, then led execution of the operating plan. Ultimately, he brought all operating divisions into compliance within 12 months.

An Air Force Colonel (O-6) had experience leading large multi-functional Department of Defense organizations of up to 800 personnel. As the Commanding Officer of one of these, he led seven subordinate organizations in a massive human capital and workforce realignment that included increasing one division from 120 to 400 personnel and relocating several hundred employees. He overcame conflict, competition for resources, and both internal and external pressure to drive positive change and meet all major milestones.

As you can see, members of the SES represent a broad range of professional and personal backgrounds, and they come in all shapes and sizes. To help determine if you are SES material, ask yourself these seven questions:

Federal SES Application – Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. Do you share a broad perspective of government and a public service commitment that is grounded in the Constitution?
  2. Are you interested in serving in the key positions within federal government just below the top Presidential appointees?
  3. Would you like to serve as one of the major links between Presidential appointees and the rest of the federal workforce?
  4. Are you qualified to lead and oversee nearly every government activity in one of approximately 75 federal agencies?
  5. Do you have the personal and professional passion to serve as one of the top executives in federal government?
  6. Are you a visionary leader and able to build alliances, overcome change and challenge, and communicate effectively with a broad range of customers?
  7. Do you possess solid management and leadership skills in order to produce optimum results with limited resources?

If you answered YES to these questions, and you have the senior-level experience to substantiate it, then OPM wants to hear from you!

Barbara Adams, President & CEO of CareerPro Global, the parent company of,, and,

one of the fastest growing Federal, Military, and Civilian Resume Writing and Career Coaching companies in the world.

Ms. Adams has been a member of the careers community for the past 18 years.
She holds four prestigious industry certifications.

Questions may be emailed to

Learn More About SES Resumes

Add A Comment